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NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award

Dr. John Howard presenting the 2014 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards

Dr. John Howard presenting the 2014 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards

NIOSH’s Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) is pleased to announce the nomination criteria for the Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award. This award recognizes mines and companies that have made an extraordinary effort to apply technology in innovative ways, above and beyond mandatory requirements, to improve mine worker safety and health.

In mining, technology should not be a one-time “fix” but rather an evolving and continuously improving process of applying new and better technologies to solve problems. To recognize these safety milestones, NIOSH OMSHR created the Technology Innovations Award with the goal of promoting technology identification, adoption, and dissemination throughout the mining industry. Mines and companies that qualify are invited to self-apply.


How to Apply

The nomination process is simple. Please compose a short e-mail, as detailed below, to describe the technology innovation that you wish to have considered for this award. Nominations can be submitted at any time throughout the year, and the e-mail should be addressed to the Director, Division of Mining Science and Technology, and sent to Questions about the nomination process can be emailed to this address or you may call 412-386-5302.

The nomination e-mail must include the name and address of the mining company being nominated and the name, phone number, and e-mail address of an individual who could be contacted for further information.

The text of the e-mail should address the following two questions:

  1. How would you describe the technology application and for what reason do you consider it to be an “innovative” technology or an innovative application of technology?
  2. What are the safety or health benefits or improvements that you expect to realize, or have already realized, from this technology application?

Please also note which sector award you are applying for. Feel free to email additional information, such as photographs or diagrams, although this detail is not necessary for the initial nomination.

You will be notified upon receipt of your nomination, and at that time you will receive additional information on what to expect during the evaluation process.

Although nominations will be accepted throughout the year, please note that awards are given annually and the award date will correspond to the meeting date for the sponsoring organization. In order to allow time for full consideration of each nomination, nominations must be received no later than the listed deadline. Nominations received after the deadline will automatically be considered for an award in the subsequent year.


Award Venue




Meeting Date

Stone, Sand, and Gravel NSSGA Annual Meeting Jan. 23, 2015 March 2015
Industrial Minerals IMA–NA Annual Meeting June 1, 2015 Sept. 2015
Coal NMA Safety Award Ceremony August 1, 2015 Oct. 2015
Metal/Nonmetal NMA Safety Award Ceremony August 1, 2015 Oct. 2015


2014 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award Winners

NIOSH presenting 2014 Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award for metal/nonmetal to Freeport–McMoRan

NIOSH presenting 2014 Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award for metal/nonmetal to Freeport–McMoRan

An Integrated Approach to Real Time Data Analysis for Changing Ground Conditions (Metal/Nonmetal Sector)

The safety of miners in open pit operations is highly dependent on understanding changing ground conditions using data from numerous types of sensing technologies.  To implement its vision of a safety based geomechanical program, Freeport–McMoRan has embraced existing and emerging technologies and has created active partnerships with various data collection, information systems and technical providers. Through this cooperative effort, a system was developed that consolidates large sets of raw and processed data from many data streams, can produce early alarms based on movement outside of predicted trends, and analyze ground behavior to provide geomechanicial engineers timely and accurate notifications to support appropriate actions.  Importantly, this integrated approach to real time data analysis and automated alarms represents the next big step in safety improvements that can be applied to many different surface and underground mining operations.

NIOSH presenting 2014 Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award for metal/nonmetal to Keystone Mining Services and Signal Peak Energy

NIOSH presenting 2014 Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award for metal/nonmetal to Keystone Mining Services and Signal Peak Energy

An Innovative Technology Solution to Improve Safety during Longwall Recovery Operations (Coal Sector)

Coal miners can be exposed to many hazards during the difficult process of a longwall recovery.  JENNMAR, and its engineering affiliate company, Keystone Mining Services, working together with Signal Peak Energy personnel, developed and demonstrated a successful method to greatly reduce the exposure of miners to hazardous conditions during this process.  This method made longwall recovery history by successfully mining into a 42 foot wide full-face recovery entry that was first bolted, meshed, and then completely back-filled with a specially formulated, cuttable, low density concrete that was pumped from the surface.  As a result of the coordination and cooperation between JENNMAR and Signal Peak, an innovative use of this technology was developed resulting in improved safety during longwall recovery operations.

2013 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award Winners

A Collision Avoidance System to Improve Mine Access and Haul Road Safety

The risks of travel on mine access and haul roads significantly increase during darkness, fog, and other adverse weather conditions. Collision avoidance under limited visibility conditions is a challenging problem, and the aviation industry has reduced accidents through the application of traffic-awareness technologies. Hecla's Greens Creeks Mine, working with SAFEmine Technology USA, adapted a GPS and radio technology approach first used to improve ground-based collision avoidance at airports. The resulting peer-to-peer communication system is simple and robust, providing vehicle operators with improved situational awareness and voice-annunciated warnings when potential collisions develop.

Next-Generation Sensors for Atmospheric Monitoring Systems

The potential for atmospheric monitoring systems to improve mine safety is limited by commercially available sensors that can be deployed throughout underground coal mines. Alpha Natural Resources partnered with Matrix Design Group to design, develop, and commercialize improved air velocity, low-power methane, and flexible-use carbon monoxide sensors, with wireless and wired data transfer options. The intrinsically safe approval with the 24-hour battery backup provides post-accident functionality for these sensors in addition to their day-to-day use to improve mine safety by detecting potentially harmful developments in the mine's ventilation network.

Clothes Cleaning Booth Technology

Contaminated work clothing represents a potentially significant area of respirable dust exposure for workers at industrial minerals operations. Unimin Corporation, working in cooperation with NIOSH, developed a clothes cleaning booth technology. This technology provides a quick, safe, and highly effective method that allows workers to clean their dust-soiled clothing periodically throughout the workday. This system safely captures the dust and contaminants from the worker’s clothing and removes them so as to not further expose the worker, co-workers, or the work environment. This technological innovation has been commercialized and put into practice at multiple work sites.

2012 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Award Winners


The inaugural awards, which highlighted coal and metal/nonmetal mining, were presented on September 25, 2012, during MINExpo at the ceremony for the National Mining Association Sentinels of Safety Awards. These awards, initiated in 1925, are given annually to the nation’s safest mines.

Red Conger, president of Freeport-McMoRan Americas, accepts the award from Jeff Kohler of OMSHR.

Red Conger, president of Freeport-McMoRan Americas, accepts the award from Jeff Kohler of OMSHR.

Mark Somers, Warren Gross, and Tom Parks of Lockheed Martin accept the award from Jeff Kohler of OMSHR.

Mark Somers, Warren Gross, and Tom Parks of Lockheed Martin accept the award from Jeff Kohler of OMSHR.

The National Mining Association provided framed certificates for the 2012 winners:

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold received the award for adapting an Australian over-the-road fatigue monitoring system for use in mine haul trucks and for implementing practices to use the information provided by the system to prevent accidents in the surface mining environment.

Lockheed Martin was recognized for developing a two-way, through-the-earth (TTE) mine communication system, known as MagneLink®, to aid in the rescue of underground mine workers in a post-accident environment. The system provides two-way voice and text communication from deep underground mines to the surface.

CONSOL Energy was honored for its commitment and collaboration to improve post-accident communications and for interfacing Lockheed Martin’s TTE technology with the company’s primary communications system. This could expand mine workers’ options for post-accident communications and possibly expedite the development and commercialization of TTE technology. The MagneLink® system was installed at CONSOL’s Robinson Run mine in West Virginia in November 2011 to evaluate its capability in an operational mine.


Background: The Challenge of Applying Technologies in Mining

The Sago Mine disaster in 2006 illuminated the critical role that technology needs to play to allow for mine worker escape and rescue in a post-accident environment. The ensuing discussions, Congressional hearings, and the NMA’s Mine Safety Technology and Training Commission revealed inadequacies in the development and adoption of technologies that could improve mine safety, especially in the areas of emergency communications and tracking, refuge alternatives, and oxygen supply. The reasons for these inadequacies are many, and Congress correctly pinpointed a key barrier: The market for technology products in mining is so small that it is difficult to recover the costs for research and development, or even the ordinary costs associated with commercializing a new technology. Further compounding the problem, technology products approved under international standards and used in mines in other countries cannot be used in the United States unless they have been approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The costs associated with the approval process are often considered greater than the potential U.S. market for the product. In practical terms, this has kept some technologies from the U.S. market.

Congress addressed this “small market” problem and codified the importance of mine safety technology in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006. In the MINER Act, OMSHR was charged with developing existing and new technologies related to oxygen supply, refuge chambers, and communications and tracking. OMSHR has met this challenge in partnership with the mining industry, labor unions, manufacturers, the international mining community, and other Federal agencies including MSHA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Naval Research Laboratory. As a result, our nation’s mines are now populated with a suite of post-accident communications and tracking technologies, many of which were developed through the NIOSH programs established by the MINER Act.

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